I can’t say I regret nothing. Because I can look back at things I’ve said and done and know some of them weren’t right. They certainly weren’t what I would do today.
But I’m not one of those people that view all of my past relationships as mistakes. And I don’t feel like they were something I shouldn’t have done. Because it’s good that I had those experiences. Yes, they didn’t last. And yes, a lot of them didn’t end up going the way I wanted them to.
But they weren’t mistakes. They weren’t failures. I learned so much.
It was actually a bit of a sore point in my former marriage — I’d dated a ton before ending up with him, and I was his second girlfriend ever. There had been one other relationship in high school, which had ended badly. And then me.
Conversely, I’d had lots of little adventures (I had an interesting adolescence, had to grow up a bit fast, and was a working musician, an environment where lots of interesting entanglements often just sorta… happen). And as a result, I’d learned a lot from people I’d known. Some of which, yes, were my exes.
So I’d naturally tell stories about those exes, those people.
And it would drive my husband at the time crazy. He hated it. It was strange for me because he generally didn’t experience jealousy (or at least didn’t express it if he did). But it really bothered him when I’d talk about exes. I think it was less romantic jealousy and more an irritation that he didn’t have as much experience.
I learned not to talk about exes ever. Which wasn’t a big deal. If I wanted to introduce the information, I just left out that it came from an ex and everything was fine.
But I found those past relationships helpful constantly. They helped me understand what aspects of that relationship were easy and what were difficult. Because I had enough data to put it all into context.
I had received feedback from pretty much everyone I’d ever dated that I’m really easygoing as a partner. Very easy to date. But when I’d ask my husband what he thought of our relationship, how we got along, how easy or difficult it seemed to be, and whether he thought I was a good partner, he would just shrug.
“I dunno,” he’d say. “I don’t have anything to compare this to.”
And I never quite knew what to say to that.
I’m Grateful for All the Heartbreaks
We were together for over a decade. And then one day we weren’t. Breaking up was the right thing to do, and we’re both better for it.
I would go on to find other relationships that suited me better (and so would he). And when I was in a serious nesting one again, I found my partner had no problem answering that question.
“You’re a wonderful partner,” they’d say. “Absolutely amazing.”
They too had a lot of experience. Had their heart broken many times.
There have been times when I wish I’d met them sooner. But then I think of how hard it was for my ex to really evaluate our relationship.
And I’m grateful for all the past heartbreaks that taught me to appreciate this. And all my partner’s heartbreaks that taught them to appreciate me.